Since its inception in 1991, the Los Angeles Children’s Planning Council has recognized the power of data as a tool for change. In ten years, the Council has measured outcomes and indicators by geographic region and ethnic groups; established one countywide (American Indian) and eight regional councils to plan and coordinate Children’s services; and begun to integrate Results-Based Accountability into the county’s new strategic plan and budget.
The Children’s Planning Council, comprised of 36 leaders from county government, cities, schools, private sector service providers, advocacy organizations and the various philanthropic, business, ethnic and geographic communities of Los Angeles was established in 1991 by the county Board of Supervisors to ‘promote, coordinate and evaluate the effectiveness of programs for children countywide,’ guided by the vision that ‘Los Angeles County Children’should reach adulthood having experienced a safe, healthy, and nurturing childhood which prepares them to become responsible and contributing members of the community.’
Countywide Outcomes and Indicators- The Children’s Score Card
To address this far-reaching mandate, the Council set out to assess the conditions of Los Angeles children and families’a daunting task in a county with a population of 2.6 million Children’spread over 4000 square miles, representing a mosaic of cultures and ethnicities, and speaking more than 100 languages. Under the auspices of the Council’s DATA Committee, in conjunction with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, a group composed primarily of expert volunteers identified five outcome areas (good health, safety and survival, economic well-being, social and emotional well-being and education/workforce readiness), adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 1993. These goal areas have been used to organize multiple iterations of a countywide Children’s score card since that time. The first score card’jointly issued in 1993 by the Children’s Planning Council and United way of Greater Los Angeles included 43 indicators. Updated bi-annually, the current 1998 Score Card at shows five year trends for the indicators. (see www.childpc.org orwww.unitedwayla.org)
County-wide data, however, was only the first step. The Council recognized that three levels of planning data–county, regional, and community/neighborhood were needed to plan services for such a far-flung, diverse county. Since a web of more than 20 county departments, 81 school districts, 88 cities, more than 1100 private social service agencies and hundreds of other organizations all had separate service and planning areas, however, regional planning or integrated service delivery was extremely difficult. In 1992, representatives of the various service systems convened to identify new, common service boundaries which would not divide natural geographic or ethnic communities and, to the extent possible, keep city, school, health and police districts intact.
In November, 1993, the Board of Supervisors approved eight regional service planning areas (SPAs) for planning, service coordination, and information- and data-sharing by major county departments serving children and families. The departments of Children and Family Services, Mental Health, Health Services, Public Social Services and Probation were instructed to begin implementation of these common boundaries for planning activities, and non-county entities were asked to adopt the same planning areas. Since that time, key funders such as United Way, the Wellness Foundation and the California Community Foundation have also adopted the SPA boundaries to help organize and coordinate their planning.
Geographic and Ethnic Profiles
Regional, comprehensive planning required significant new data. Over the next two years, the DATA Committee of the Children’s Planning Council compiled data profiles of each of the eight geographic areas, to answer the questions:
- How are people organized in the county?
- What formal and informal systems exist to support families and children in each service planning area?
- What resources’residents, institutions, facilities, associations, initiatives, and governance structures’do regional communities have to solve problems?
- What links do county departments serving children have to communities?
Teams of researchers and community volunteers compiled profiles from multiple sources, including personal or telephone interviews of key informants, focus groups, written surveys, observation of community events, literature research, maps, census and agency data, etc. They also collected regional baseline data measures, corresponding to the indicators on the countywide Score Card. In May, 1996, the massive Profiles of Los Angeles County: Service Planning Area Resources for Children, Youth and Families was published, providing significant planning data for each of the eight Los Angeles County Service Planning Areas, and for the county as a whole. (seewww.unitedwayla.org )
To complement the geographic profiles, in December 1996, the Children’s Planning Council published Ethnic Community Profiles, describing sub-group and demographic data, population dispersion, networks, social, policy and service needs of the African-American, American Indian, Asian Pacific-American, and Latino communities in Los Angeles County. A Multi-Ethnic Children’s Score Card followed in March 2000, assessing progress of the four largest race/ethnic groups on measures of well-being in the five Children’s Planning Council outcome areas. (see www.unitedwayla.org)
Regional Planning Councils
To guide the work of the newly-created Service Planning Areas, regional councils were formed in 1998, representing agencies and service providers (49%) and community representatives (51%). Based on information from the geographic and ethnic profiles, each council submits annual work plans to improve services in at least one of the five county-wide outcome area . As a group, they may also focus their efforts countywide to improve one or more outcomes. In addition to the eight regional councils, a county-wide American Indian Council was formed, based on the understanding that American Indians had a different relationship with government, and that although Los Angeles has the largest urban Indian population in the United States, they are spread evenly across the county and therefore do not show up in regional groupings.
Using Outcomes to Change the Way Government Does Business: the Los Angeles County Strategic Plan
In November, 1999, the Children’s Planning Council was directed by the Board of Supervisors to work with the Chief Administrative Officer to develop a section of the county’s new Strategic Plan outlining how the county can better coordinate and integrate services for children and families. The Council and Chief Administrative Officer were instructed to provide departments which allocate funds to children and families with guidelines to measure the five key outcome areas both within and across service systems.
The current county budget process directs departments to develop performance measures which address input, workload, efficiency, effectiveness and objectives for service delivery. The recommended guidelines would add measurement of impact ‘the extent to which they have improved the lives of children and families’both for individual programs and collectively, across programs and systems. In addition, county departments will be directed to begin integrating services focusing on five areas: access to services; data sharing; multi-agency service delivery; customer service and satisfaction; and revenue for services. The recommended guidelines are:
- To adopt the Results-Based Decision Making model which includes Results-Based Accountability, as a common analytical framework for measuring progress toward the five outcome areas.
- To identify and adopt a small set of standard Countywide indicators for quantifying and measuring progress toward achieving the five outcome areas for children and families.
- To develop a standardized system of measuring and establishing performance measures for County programs which are both linked to the standard countywide indicators (where possible), and consistent with the service and program mandates of the population served.
- To link the implementation and achievement of the performance measures to the County’s strategic planning process and the Management Appraisal Performance plans for County managers.
- To incorporate the Results-Based Decision Making model into the County budget process for departments serving children and families, and restructure the Children’s Budget to illustrate linkages among resources and programs/services across service delivery systems to improve outcomes for children and families in Los Angeles County.
Implementation of the recommended guidelines will be overseen by the Service Integration Branch in the office of the Chief Administrative Officer. It will be phased in over a nine-month period, starting with adoption of the guidelines by the Board of Supervisors in March, 2001, followed by adoption of standard countywide indicators; planning for implementing the Results-Based Decision Making model into the county budget process; development of an implementation manual for departments to identify and track performance measures; and development of budget development instructions.